A Patient's Perspective on Abuse. Pertiwi: Reframing Mothers on Mother’s Day
It is a great tragedy of life that some people are not fortunate enough to have stable childhood homes with sane, unified and supportive parents. I’ve learned this is fairly common. There are many homes built on emotional quicksand and cracked foundations.
We can’t control where we come from—the planet or our parents. But we can control our worldview and what we make of the life we’re given. As the daughter of a mother with bipolar personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder, I felt I hit the jackpot of dysfunction. I internalized this dysfunction as my own and could not see my story in any other way. For a while, I struggled with how I could reframe and document my story, yet stay true to my experiences.
I didn’t want to wait so long to write my story, that I’d forget to relay the mania and pain inflicted by my mother. However, I did want to wait long enough to empathize with her struggles with herself. I also longed to present a viable solution to support others birthed by broken moms.
One of the tactics I’ve developed for making peace with having a mother who wasn’t fully present or prepared to be a parent is to redirect my energy toward a visual that supports my existence. The image that has held true is the vital Mother Earth. Mother Earth “focuses on the life-giving and nurturing aspects of nature by embodying it, in the form of the mother.” In Indonesia, Mother Earth is known as Ibu Pertiwi.
I was introduced to this personification by Ibu Ayu of Bucu Views in Ubud, when visiting Bali to celebrate my 34th birthday and 15th anniversary with my husb. During a long conversation we shared the first morning of our stay, Ayu spoke about the importance of prioritizing harmony with nature. She noted this as the key to freedom.
Let it go. After thinking about this concept for a few months, I realized I’ve been turning to Mother Earth since the fall of 2012. This was around the time I firmly went no contact with my mother—letting go of who she was and who I wanted her to be for me. I also automated my dream job that was then terminated, freeing me to pursue four years of freelance work and healing myself.
When I received notice about the end of my job, intuition took over and led me to purchase a compost tumbler. This act seemed random to my partner, friends…and even to myself, if I’m being honest. But I couldn’t stop thinking about composting until I had the tool to simplify it. So, a little at a time, I removed what was once considered trash outside to decompose to produce rich soil.
I’ve recently meditated on this cycle of letting go of what is meant to decompose. For example, I was sick for most of my life. I was one of the runts of my mother’s litter. This was the result of maintaining chronic stress and holding it in my cellular body as it tried numerous ways to communicate that I had pain to release.
One of the many lessons I learned in the conversation with Ayu is that freedom comes when you transcend your pain body. You’ve already experienced the pain. You don’t have to carry it with you. But you can learn from those lessons, move forward and share what you’ve learned. This will elevate your experience.
Although I deeply wanted this, the idea of stepping out of pain was terrifying. It was scary to think of trusting a new way of experiencing the world. And I was unclear how to release debilitating beliefs that were planted in me long ago and for decades.
Turn up the heat. In my experience with composting, I’ve witnessed the earth’s way of naturally purging what doesn’t belong. This has been a master class in trusting Mother Earth to detox and heal herself. For example, if there’s a piece of plastic on a thrown away bit of apple in compost, once the black gold is formed, the plastic will rise to the surface to be picked out and tossed.
In my life, I’ve pursued outlets that empower me to do the same—to sift through past experiences and lighten my psychic weight to move through the world with more ease. The path to find ways to accomplish the decomposition of toxic roots has not been linear. It’s been uncomfortable and expensive but worth it.
I started with more economical options. I searched for Al-Anon groups and completely got it confused with Alcoholics Anonymous. When I accidentally attended an AA meeting, I listened to a father speak about his estranged family, how it took him too long to turn around his behavior, how he was accepting the loss, and how he was genuinely sorry. I heard this and I wept, raining down on the beliefs I strived to break down and break through. I cried as though the apology came from my own parent. This healing was free and prepared me for Al-Anon.
I also worked with my:
emotional state with EMDR, somatic couples therapy and the formation of my mother pie
chemistry by detoxing, supplementing, addressing my nutrition and prioritizing fitness and
energy with reiki and a handful of other effective modalities
Addressing all three of these areas has helped me determine what to keep or cultivate to fertilize my future.
Garden. After two years of composting, I emptied my tumbler to make room for new contents. That spring and summer hosted lots of sun and showers. It was the perfect combination for cleansing and making space for new beginnings. I continued my practice of turning the compost and went on with my life. In a couple of months, the compost pile produced food! There were stowaway seeds for cantaloupes we were able to enjoy and share with our neighbor.
The lesson I learned from this was that when I feed the earth, it will sustain me in return. This was a much more enriching view of how I’ve grown to see motherhood. Mothers sustain life and inspire growth. This is in no way true of mothers with narcissistic personality disorder, but 100 percent true of Mother Earth. With sun and rain and offering what we no longer need, the earth, Mother Earth, will ensure we have all we need to thrive in the world.
We have a choice in how we view the world. I once believed my childhood trauma was something to be ashamed of. I’ve learned overcoming struggle results in power and resilience. Shifting this view has allowed me to choose gratitude, happiness and freedom. I’ve learned my problems were a gift for the perspective they’ve given me. Without challenges, I would have little to no context for what is good.
I have not only learned and benefited from the experiences I endured from my mother in my childhood. I’ve learned a great deal about the more nurturing side of motherhood from the earth and her healing abilities. And I choose to honor her on Mother’s Day, Earth Day and every other day.
Mother’s Day is another day to focus on what sustains us and elevates humanity, and not to think of those who seek to tear it down one child at a time. Mother’s Day is for healers, not harbingers of chaos and war. I hope this visualization aid helps you in your healing process.